Research Projects

PhD Projects

Bushfire Convective Plume Experiment: A Mobile X-band Field Campaign into Fire-Driven Convection in Australia

Nicholas McCarthy

The prediction of pyroconvection presents complex problems for meteorologists and wildfire managers, given that plume-driven feedback processes between fire and atmosphere can lead to unpredictable and dangerous wildfire behaviour. In particular, plume dynamics is a significant factor in the transport of burning debris leading to new fires often many kilometres in advance of the main fire front in a process known as spotting. Here we present the initial findings of the Bushfire Convective Plume Experiment (BCPE), using portable dual-polarized X-band radar (from The University of Queensland; UQ-XPOL) to study fire-driven convection in Australia. Coupled with portable Automatic Weather Station observations, time-lapse photography, airborne multispectral imaging and spot-fire mapping, the design of the BCPE enables quantitative analysis of pyroconvection and its role in fire behaviour. The results to date include observations of three significant wildfires and one prescribed burn, with insights into deployment strategy, plume evolution, vortex generation, dual polarisation signatures and pyrocumulonimbus initiation. The findings demonstrate the suitability of portable, dual-polarized X-band Doppler radar for this application. There is an emerging space for the use of the X-band frequency matched with fire behaviour data where the nature of the in-plume scatterers remains poorly understood.

Trees Effect on Snowpack Energetics Experiment

Andrew Schwartz

The Snowy Mountains of Southeast Australia have mild temperatures, wet winters, and a marginal snowpack that sits precariously on the edge of complete ablation for the majority of the winter season. Small fluctuations in energy to the snowpack can cause dramatic increases in melt or storage during the winter. This project aims to examine and quantify the impacts of Eucalyptus pauciflora trees on snowpack energetics through exhaustive measurement of energy transfer in forested regions of the Snowy Mountains. Effects of single trees as well as those of living and dead (burned) tree stands on snow accumulation, ablation, and snow water equivalent (SWE) will be investigated over a variety of spatiotemporal scales. This study will be crucial to water management in the region and could be considered a pilot study for changes to forested snowpacks that will accompany climate change as it impacts the mountainous regions in the mid- and upper-latitude regions of the world.